Bureaucrats are playing safe, refusing to give information even when they ought to.
In a stinging commentary on the approach of the bureaucracy towards sharing information, the Central Information Commission has asked public authorities to use their minds and judiciously apply exemption clauses.
The immediate provocation for the observation was the Union Home Ministry’s refusal to reveal a fax sent by it to the West Bengal government on handing over investigations into the Purulia arms-dropping case to the CBI. The ministry refused to part with the information, saying the case was “highly sensitive” from the security point of view and it would not be possible to classify any part of the case as “non-sensitive”.
The Commission junked this argument, observing that the message had not even been classified under the Official Secrets Act. Information commissioner A.N. Tiwari noted that though the Commission allowed a “lot of leeway” to government agencies in claiming exemption under the national security clause, it was expected that this provision is not invoked “lightly or frivolously”.
Tiwari, a retired IAS officer, said the refusal to communicate in the arms-dropping case was not a one-off case but reflected the tendency of the bureaucrats to pass the buck. Presumably, this saves them from the ire of their superiors. “Passing the buck is a safer bet but, sadly enough, it is not conducive to accelerating decision-making or to building popular trust in the department’s commitment to transparency,” the information commissioner said.